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  • OpenAI’s interim CEO Emmett Shear praised Sam Altman’s dealmaking skills in a podcast interview.
  • Shear was impressed by how ex-OpenAI CEO’s made deals with Microsoft and phone companies.
  • Altman secured an offer from Microsoft over the weekend to join with some of his OpenAI colleagues.

Sam Altman, the ex-CEO of OpenAI who got ousted from the company, is more than just the face of ChatGPT. He’s also known for his business superpower as a savvy dealmaker, at least according to Emmett Shear, now interim CEO of OpenAI.

Earlier this year, before being appointed as OpenAI’s temporary CEO, the cofounder of Twitch went on the podcast “The Logan Bartlett Show” and discussed what the Altman was like when they were working on their separate ventures at Y Combinator, a startup accelerator, back in 2005.

“Was it obvious that Sam was going to be the leader of the free world?” Bartlett asked on the podcast, apparently referencing Altman’s meteoric rise since launching OpenAI.

“No,” Shear replied. “It was obvious Sam was an incredible deals guy.”


“That was the only obvious thing about Sam at the time,” Shear said later in the segment. “He was ambitious — but most of us were pretty ambitious —and he was a great, great deals guy.”

In praise of Altman’s dealmaking skills, Shear pointed to the way Altman convinced Microsoft to purchase fusion power from Helion, a research company he backed when he was president of Y Combinator.

Shear appeared to be particularly impressed by Altman’s ability to convince phone companies like Sprint and Verizon to give Loopt, his location-sharing service startup, deals even though Shear believed Altman’s startup didn’t have a product at the time.

“I still don’t know how he did that,” Shear said regarding Loopt’s deals.


More than 20 years later, Shear said he continues to believe that Altman can strike hot deals.

“Sam is still an incredible deals guy, obviously,” Shear said.

Shear didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment through OpenAI ahead of publication.

Shear’s thoughts on Altman’s dealmaking chops come months before he got chosen to lead OpenAI as interim CEO after the OpenAI cofounder got ousted from his company. The board said that it lost confidence in Altman’s ability to continue leading OpenAI, citing that he was “not consistently candid in his communications.”


Altman’s business acumen may be offer some insight — among potential AI safety concerns — into the events surrounding his ousting and later landing an offer to join Microsoft along with some of his OpenAI colleagues.

“His superpower is getting people on side, shaping narratives, pushing situations into the shape that work for him,” a source with knowledge of the conversations between Altman and OpenAI’s board told the Financial Times. “It makes him impossible to oversee.”

Described by Insider as the “Kevin Bacon of Silicon Valley,” Altman, who has personal relationships with powerful business leaders like Peter Thiel, has an influential presence in the tech industry.

In 2017, Altman helped Rahul Vohra, the founder of Superhuman, by using his connection with Google CEO Sundar Pichai to solve an issue Vohra’s company had with Google.


Altman, who has poured money into companies like AirBnb and Stripe, continues to strike nine-figure deals with Lachy Groom, a prominent venture capitalist who he once dated.

“Sam Altman is really good at raising money,” Shear said on the podcast.

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